government

AMA: Drug company gift reports need physician comments

The American Medical Association suggests changes to how federal officials collect and report data on financial ties between physicians and manufacturers.

By Charles Fiegl — Posted May 6, 2013

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The collection and reporting of drug and device industry payments and transfers of value to physicians could be improved by giving doctors the option to provide context to data associated with them that will be made public under federal law, the American Medical Association stated in an April 9 letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

CMS has developed a draft framework to use when manufacturers begin collecting data Aug. 1 on the payments they make to physicians. The collection and subsequent release of information in public transparency reports, a requirement under the Sunshine Act provision in the 2010 Affordable Care Act, will attempt to increase awareness of the financial relationships between doctors and manufacturers. CMS will compile the data, aggregate it and post it online by Sept. 30, 2014.

The American Medical Association largely supports the initial designs for data collection, the letter said. The Association recommended changes to CMS, the agency charged with implementing the law, after reviewing templates and statements for the program. If followed, the recommendations would enhance the information that will be released to the public, the AMA said.

“We appreciate the opportunity to continue working with CMS to ensure that the implementation of the Sunshine Act minimizes the administrative burden on physicians, ensuring that information reported is accurate, fair and consistent with the congressional stated purpose of transparency, and not undermining those interactions that advance the art and science of medicine,” the AMA stated.

The AMA urged CMS to include space for physicians to add context on the templates used to report payments or transfers of value. The agency has the discretion to give physicians the opportunity to offer context so transparency reporting would be accurate, fair and balanced, the Association said.

Technical concerns remain

Information gathered during the process to identify physicians should be limited, the AMA said. There have been concerns about permitting the collection of so much personal information on physicians that the effort inadvertently could expose them to identity theft. Furthermore, allowing industry groups to collect and include e-mail addresses for physicians could create confusion. Some practices may opt for a practice manager, compliance officer or other third party to be the point of contact for disclosure information.

Implementation of the disclosure law will include accessing a secure database to review information reported by industry members. The utilization of CMS portals has been challenging for physicians at times. For instance, doctors and practices initially reported difficulties obtaining feedback reports through a portal developed for the Medicare physician quality reporting system. Problems accessing physician records on the Medicare provider enrollment, chain and ownership system also were documented after its launch.

“The Sunshine Act has the potential to create significant administrative burdens for physicians, including the initial registration and any subsequent disputes that physicians may have with industry reporting,” the AMA letter stated. “CMS should provide further detail outlining how they and authorized users can register for the new portal.”

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External links

Physician Financial Transparency Reports (Sunshine Act), American Medical Association (link)

AMA letter to CMS on Data Collection: Reports of Physician Ownership and Investment, April 9 (link)

National Physician Payment Transparency Program: Open Payments, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (link)

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